Experts explains how being overweight can affect libido and fertility

Is YOUR weight ruining your sex life? Experts reveal a host of intimate problems caused by carrying excess pounds – from thrush to low libido

  • Expert revealed weight can lead to a host of health problems in intimate area  
  • Endocrinologist said issues can include irregular periods and a low libido 
  • Dr Abd Tahrani also revealed thrush is more likely to recur in overweight women 
  • Women with an increased BMI are also more likely to experience fertility issues 
  • 61 per cent of women with polycystic ovaries are obesity or have excess weight

Excessive weight gain can leave people lacking confidence and impact their overall health – but it can also affect a women’s intimate sex life as well. 

Experts, including a gynaecologist, endocrinologist and a pharmacist, have now revealed how extra weight can cause serious health issues including vaginal health conditions and can lead to problems with fertility. 

While being overweight can have serious health complications for everyone, Dr Abd Tahrani, a senior lecturer in Metabolic Endocrinology and Obesity Medicine at the University of Birmingham, said there are a number of unique health issues that can occur for women in particular. 

Here, Femail rounds up the five most common ways excess weight gain can impact women’s bodies. 

Experts have revealed how being overweight can also have serious effects on a woman’s body, leaving her with recurring thrush, unpredictable periods and polycystsic ovaries

1. Low Libido

The benefits of sex have been hailed for years, both physically and mentally, however, weight can impact women’s libido in a number of ways.

Dr Abd explained that it could ‘clearly encroach’ on a women’s personal life, revealing: ‘Weight gain, including those who have obesity or excess weight, can impact men and women’s sex drive or libido due to both psychological and hormonal factors. 

‘This is a clear example of how much weight can encroach on a person’s personal life and the profound impact it can have. 

‘For example, in men, excessive weight can lower testosterone levels and that can directly lead to reduction in libido.’

Being overweight can also affect a woman’s libido because their weight affects them psychologically, as well as impacting their hormones

He added: ‘Finally, on a psychological level, studies have shown that women’s dissatisfaction with their body can impact their sex life and hence their desire to lead a happy and active sex life, reducing their libido. 

‘This can be particularly prevalent in middle-aged women who experience weight gain through the menopause.’

2. Thrush

WHAT IS THRUSH?  

Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. 

It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back. 

It is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

Thrush is the most common intimate health condition and impacts three in four women during their lifetime.

However Canesten’s gynaecologist, Dr Anne Henderson has now revealed how those with high sugar diet, or high sugar levels circulating through their body, are much more prone to getting the condition and experiencing it several times.

Dr Anna explained: ‘If you are overweight, a high sugar diet, consisting of refined carbohydrates and high sugar content foods can impact your likelihood in getting thrush. 

‘Sugar is carried through the body not just in the bloodstream but in your vaginal tissues too.

‘Sugar in your vaginal tissue is the ideal place to for thrush to thrive and, even if you treat the condition, if you don’t adjust your diet you are likely to experience recurrent episodes, which can be harder to treat.’

She added: ‘Besides those who are leading an unhealthy diet, women with poorly managed diabetes, unless have scrupulous control, will experience more attached of thrush than healthy women.’ 

3. Irregular periods

Endocrinologist Dr Abd revealed that women’s menstrual cycles can be sensitive to weight changes and suggested both weight gain and loss can have an impact on how periods present themselves.

A woman’s period is dictated by several hormones and the endocrinologist said an imbalance in any of these can have an effect. 

Endocrinologist Dr Abd said women who are overweight often experience irregular periods, or miss them all together, because their weight causes a hormone imbalance in their bodies

He explained: ‘Excessive weight gain can result in an increase in androgens (male hormones) and imbalances between oestrogen and progesterone (the female hormones).

This can result in abnormalities in the menstrual cycle and lack of (or reduced) ovulation in some women.’ 

As a result, obese women, or those with excess weight, may find their periods are delayed or missed all together. 

In addition, higher levels of certain hormones can lead to excess hair growth or, in some cases, an extremely heavy period. 

Dr Abd advised those experiencing these symptoms to check in with their GP.  

4. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

There is a plethora of research into the link between polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and weight. 

WHAT IS POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.

The three main features of PCOS are:

  • Irregular periods – which means the ovaries don’t regularly release eggs (ovulation). This can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
  • Excess androgen – high levels of ‘male hormones’ in the body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair.
  • Polycystic ovaries – the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) which surround the eggs (it’s important to note that, despite the name, if you have PCOS you don’t actually have cysts).

Source: NHS Choices  

Research has shown that around 61 per cent of women who experience PCOS have obesity or excess weight and about 70 per cent have insulin resistance.

Dr Abd explained: ‘The links between polycystic ovarian syndrome and weight continue to be explored. 

‘We know that both weight and PCOS are linked, however the causal factors can vary.

‘It’s very hard to ascertain whether weight gain contributes to the development of PCOS, or whether PCOS causes weight gain.’

He continued: ‘In fact, both are true and the exact sequence can be unique to individuals. 

‘We know that excess weight can precede the diagnosis of PCOS and/or worsen PCOS symptom. On the other hand, many women with PCOS struggle with weight loss.

‘What we also know is that weight loss in women with PCOS who have obesity or excess weight can greatly improve the symptoms of PCOS, including periods, fertility and in some cases excess hair, and potentially improve long-term health.’

He added: ‘PCOS is associated with increased risk of several metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obstructive sleep apnoea among others. 

‘This increased risk can be lessened by weight loss and improved physical activity.’  

5. Fertility issues 

Research has shown women who are overweight have greater issues with the reproductive health compared to healthy individuals.  

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura said: ‘Women may find difficulty in getting pregnant, and once pregnant are at higher risk of complications.

‘The ways in which being overweight can affect women’s fertility are multi-factorial. However, one of the main causes is hormonal imbalance, similar to many of the other issues. 

‘As Dr Abd has identified, excess androgen oestrogen can affect women’s menstrual cycle, which of course can in turn affect women’s ability to become pregnant.

‘Further to this, it is thought that one of the leading causes of infertility in women is presence of a hormone known as leptin produced by fatty cells. 

‘Regulated leptin levels in the body are vital for a healthy reproductive system, which can be managed by having a healthy fat to muscle ratio in the body.’ 

What’s the solution?  

Doctor Abd Tahrani, concluded: ‘There are so many side effects of excessive weight gain, where having overweight or obesity can have serious consequences to health in some people. Not only is it linked to conditions that affect individual’s mortality, but many women’s issues too which can impact quality of life.

‘The reasons for weight gain vary and there are so many factors (some of which related to the wider society and environment and others specific to the individual) that feed into this – where there is very rarely one quick fix. 

‘However, seeking support to manage your weight through responsible programmes can help address the underlying behavioural, psychological and biological factors that we sometimes have little control over.

‘If you are concerned about your weight, seek professional advice, you don’t need to struggle on your own and there are better methods to lose weight, beyond fad diets. 

‘LloydsPharmacy has recently launched a new weight management programme, making advice accessible on the high-street and in local communities for everyone.’

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